The Best Way to Harvest and Store Root Crops

The Best Way to Harvest and Store Root Crops

How to Harvest and Store Root Crops for the Best Keeping Qualities

Knowing how to harvest and store root crops properly can save money and increase your self-reliance over the winter. Root crops are vegetables that store energy in their roots (or a modified stem) for the winter. In spring the plant uses its stored energy to grow and produce seeds. Gardeners have raised root vegetables as a winter food source for ages.

For the longest storage and best quality, you’ll need to store root crops at the ideal temperature and humidity for each crop. So let’s take a look at the basics for digging and storing those tasty roots.

How to Harvest and Store Pumpkins and Winter Squash

This post may contain affiliate links or advertisements.

store root crops like these potatoes

The Basics of How to Harvest & Store Root Crops

Most root vegetables should be dug (rather than pulled) to harvest them in one piece. Place your shovel or garden fork out away from the row a bit and dig straight down to prevent damage to the roots. Then loosen the soil to expose the roots.

Remove any vegetables with cuts and scrapes to use fresh. They will rot in storage and cause the surrounding vegetables to go bad. For best results store root crops that are sound and free of disease.

Brush the soil off the roots and allow them to dry out a little before storing them. Some vegetables require a curing stage to toughen their skin. See the charts below for instructions.

Many root crops keep best with cold, moist conditions, but there are exceptions.

Storing Roots with Fruits?

It’s best to store fruits, such as apples, pears, and pumpkins, in a separate area from your roots. Fruits release ethylene gas in storage and can cause vegetables to rot more quickly. Some people report no problems with storing fruits and vegetables in the same space. If you only have one root cellar, try placing the fruit on one side and the vegetables on the other side.

how to store root crops - onions

Best Places to Store Root Crops

A root cellar is a great place to store your extra veggies for the winter. You may build a root cellar in the basement of your home and install a vent to allow cold air into the storage space. Another option is to dig a root cellar separate from your home.

Not everyone is able to install a root cellar. Fortunately, there are other storage spaces that may work for you.

If the frost line in your area tends to be shallow, cover rows of root crops with a deep layer of straw or leaves, then dig them as needed over the winter. For colder areas, place whole bales of straw over the rows and move them aside to harvest. Cover the straw with a tarp for added protection.

Clamping is another method that works well if your winters are not severe. To clamp roots for storage, dig a shallow pit and line it with straw or clean, dry leaves. Pile your root crops on the bedding, then cover with a deep layer of clean straw or leaves. Top with a tarp and place rocks around the edges to secure it from the wind. As you need food from the clamp, lift up one edge, remove what you need, then cover the remaining roots securely.

Another option is to store your crops in a 3 season porch, entryway, garage, barn, or unheated room in your home until the temperatures get too cold.

A digital hygrometer and thermometer that tracks the coldest and warmest temperatures and the humidity levels comes in handy for keeping track of conditions in your storage space.

The Best Roots for Storage

The following vegetables are some of the best roots to grow and store for winter. Each chart lists the ideal harvest and storage conditions for crops, as well as length of storage and the best varieties to grow.

A Tree Planted For Every Order At Eartheasy.com – Shop Now
how to store root crops - beets

Beets

CommercialHome Raised
Large number of hens in small area can lead to spread of disease.Normally pastured, free range, or allowed more space, potentially reducing spread of disease.
No control over feed. Animal byproducts in feed are potential source of disease.Keeper has more control over feed. Check ingredients before purchase.
No control over hatchery source for laying hens.Keeper may research and order from salmonella free hatcheries.
Eggs often washed in same water all day, may lead to contamination of eggs.Eggs may be stored unwashed, or washed separately in clean water with sanitizing solution.
carrots

Carrots

Root CropHarvest Instructions
& Best Varieties
How to PrepareIdeal TemperatureIdeal HumidityStorage Length
BeetsHarvest before first frost, or mulch heavily and harvest
before ground freezes.

Long Season Lutz Beets
(may be planted in spring)
Detroit Dark Red Beet
(Plant in summer)
Cut leaves off, leaving 1-2" of stem, do not cut roots off.

Pack beets in damp sand or sawdust.
32 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95% 2 - 5 months
CarrotsHarvest before ground freezes,
or cover with straw or leaves and
harvest before bitter cold sets in.

Chantenay Red Cored Carrot
Danvers Half Long Carrot
Cut leaves off, leaving small stubs of stem.

Pack carrots in damp sand or sawdust
32 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%Up to 7 months
CeleriacHarvest before ground freezes, or cover with straw or leaves and harvest before bitter cold sets in.
Best when grown in late summer.

Prague Celeriac
Cut leaves back to 1", trim fine root hairs.

Pack in damp sand or sawdust.
32 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%2 - 5 months
GarlicHarvest garlic once leaves begin to yellow, but before tops fall over. Brush off soil and spread out in single layer to cure for 1 - 2 weeks in dry, airy spot.

Softneck Garlic
Trim roots off. Cut stems back to 1", unless braiding or hanging in small bunches.32 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit50 - 60%
Softneck garlic -
up to 9 months

Hardneck garlic -
up to 6 months
HorseradishHarvest horseradish after a light frost, but before ground freezes.
Store large roots and replant smaller roots for next year. Trim leaves to 1 or 2".

Pack in damp sand or sawdust.
32 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%3 - 5 months
Sunchokes
(Jerusalem Artichokes)
Sunchokes store best when left in the ground, covered with 2 or 3" of soil and a thick layer of straw or leaves. However, they may be harvested after a frost, but before the ground freezes. They will keep for a month or two when stored properly in the root cellar.

Pack sunchokes in damp sand or sawdust.32 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%1 - 3 months
KohlrabiHarvest kohlrabi from summer planting (spring planted kohlrabi will be woody), before first frost.

'Grand Duke' (F1 hybrid)
Early White Vienna
Cut leaves and roots off.

Pack in damp sand or sawdust.
32 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%2 - 4 months
LeeksLeeks may be harvest and stored in the root cellar or hilled up with soil and a thick layer of straw or leaves to dig over winter.

American Flag
Giant Musselburgh
Replant leeks in a container of damp sand and store in root cellar. 32 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit90- 95%4 - 6 months
OnionsWhen half of theonion tops have bent over it is time to force the rest to dry out. Use a rake to knock down the rest of the onion tops. Allow to dry out for 1 week, then harvest.

White Ebenezer
Copra
Southport Red Globe
Lay onions on a screen in the sun for several days to 1 week to cure. Cut tops off or use to braid onions.
Store in mesh bags or slatted crates.
32 - 50 degrees Fahrenheit60 - 70%4 - 6 months
ParsnipsHarvest parsnips after several light frosts for sweetest flavor. Be sure to dig deep enough to harvest entire root.
Parsnips may be stored in root cellar or covered with a thick layer of straw or leaves and dig up as needed through the winter.

Harris Model
All American
Hollow Crown
Trim leaves.

Pack in damp sand or sawdust.
32 - 35 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%4 - 6 months
Sweet PotatoHarvest sweet potatoes after the first hard frost has killed the vines.
Dig carefully to avoid damaging skin. Allow to air dry for several hours then gently brush soil from tubers. Skin damages easily.
Cure sweet potatoes for 2 weeks in 85 - 90% humidity to toughen skins, convert some of the starch to sugar, and heal small nicks.
Use small and damaged sweet potatoes up, do not store.

Centennial
Japanese Purple
Wrap sweet potatoes in newspaper or layer in dry sawdust in a box, basket, or clean garbage can.

Keep dry in storage or they will rot quickly.

45 - 60 degrees Fahrenheit80 - 85% 4 - 6 months
PotatoesHarvest late season potatoes for storage after tops have died down and soil is fairly dry.
Store potatoes that are not damaged.
After digging, allow to dry for an hour, then brush off soil and begin curing process. To cure potatoes, Spread out in dry, dark spot with temps around 60 - 75 degrees Fahrenheit and leave for 1 - 2 weeks. This will toughen the skin and heal small nicks.

Burbank Russet
Katahdin
Kennebec
Red La Soda
Yukon Gold
Place potatoes in shallow layers in slatted boxes or well ventilated containers. 36 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit90%4 - 6 months
Winter RadishWinter radishes store well, but summer radishes do not. Harvest once temperatures cool down, but before a hard frost.

Black Spanish Round
China Rose
Chinese White
Trim leaves.

Pack in damp sand or sawdust.
32 - 35 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%3 - 5 months
RutabagaHarvest rutabagas before frost. Trim leaves off close to root.

American Purple Top
Laurentian
Pack in damp sand or sawdust .
You may also dip in wax to retain moisture and keep longer.
32 - 35 degrees 90 - 95%2 - 3 months
Salsify (Vegetable Oyster)Harvest salsify after a few light frosts for best flavor. Be careful to dig entire root.

Mammoth Sandwich Island
Trim leaves.

Pack in damp sand or sawdust.

Salsify dries out rather quickly.
32 - 35 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%1 - 2 months
TurnipHarvest summer planted turnips (not spring crop)after a light frost, but before a hard freeze. Trim leaves off and use any that are damaged.

Purple Top White Globe
Vertus Marteau
White Egg
Pack in damp sand or sawdust.32- 35 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%2 - 4 months
celeriac

Celeriac

Harvest Instructions
& Best Varieties
How to PrepareIdeal TemperatureIdeal HumidityStorage Length
Harvest before first frost, or mulch heavily and harvest
before ground freezes.

Long Season Lutz Beets
(may be planted in spring)
Detroit Dark Red Beet
(Plant in summer)
Cut leaves off, leaving 1-2" of stem, do not cut roots off.

Pack beets in damp sand or sawdust.
32 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95% 2 - 5 months
garlic

Garlic

Harvest Instructions
& Best Varieties
How to PrepareIdeal TemperatureIdeal HumidityStorage Length
Harvest before ground freezes, or mulch and harvest before bitter cold sets in.

Chantenay Red Cored Carrot
Danvers Half Long Carrot
Cut leaves off, leaving small stubs of stem.

Pack carrots in damp sand or sawdust
32 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%Up to 7 months

Horseradish

Harvest Instructions
& Best Varieties
How to PrepareIdeal TemperatureIdeal HumidityStorage Length
Harvest before ground freezes, or mulch heavily and harvest before bitter cold sets in.
Best when grown in late summer.

Prague Celeriac
Cut leaves back to 1", trim fine root hairs.

Pack in damp sand or sawdust.
32 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%2 - 5 months
kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

Harvest Instructions
& Best Varieties
How to PrepareIdeal TemperatureIdeal HumidityStorage Length
Harvest horseradish after a light frost, but before ground freezes.
'Bohemian' is noted for disease resistance
Store large roots and replant smaller roots for next year. Trim leaves to 1 or 2".

Pack in damp sand or sawdust.
32 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%3 - 5 months
leeks

Leeks

Harvest Instructions
& Best Varieties
How to PrepareIdeal TemperatureIdeal HumidityStorage Length
Sunchokes store best when left in the ground, covered with 2 or 3" of soil and a thick layer of straw or leaves. However, they may be harvested after a frost, but before the ground freezes. They will keep for a month or two when stored properly in the root cellar.

Pack sunchokes in damp sand or sawdust.32 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%1 - 3 months
onions

Onions

Harvest Instructions
& Best Varieties
How to PrepareIdeal TemperatureIdeal HumidityStorage Length
Harvest kohlrabi from summer planting (spring planted kohlrabi will be woody), before first frost.

'Grand Duke' (F1 hybrid)
Early White Vienna
Cut leaves and roots off.

Pack in damp sand or sawdust.
32 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%2 - 4 months
parsnips

Parsnips

Harvest Instructions
& Best Varieties
How to PrepareIdeal TemperatureIdeal HumidityStorage Length
Leeks may be harvested and stored in the root cellar or hilled up with soil and a thick layer of straw or leaves to dig over winter.

American Flag
Giant Musselburgh
Replant leeks in a container of damp sand and store in root cellar. 32 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit90- 95%4 - 6 months
potatoes

Potatoes

Harvest Instructions
& Best Varieties
How to PrepareIdeal TemperatureIdeal HumidityStorage Length
Harvest parsnips after several light frosts for sweetest flavor. Be sure to dig deep enough to harvest entire root.

Parsnips may be stored in root cellar or covered with a thick layer of straw or leaves and dig up as needed through the winter.

Harris Model
All American
Hollow Crown
Trim leaves.

Pack in damp sand or sawdust.

You may also dip in wax to retain moisture and keep longer.
32 - 35 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%4 - 6 months
Sunchoke

Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes)

Harvest Instructions
& Best Varieties
How to PrepareIdeal TemperatureIdeal HumidityStorage Length
Harvest garlic once leaves begin to yellow, but before tops fall over. Brush off soil and spread out in single layer to cure for 1 - 2 weeks in dry, airy spot.

Softneck Garlic
Trim roots off. Cut stems back to 1", unless braiding or hanging in small bunches.32 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit50 - 60%
Softneck garlic -
up to 9 months

Hardneck garlic -
up to 6 months
sweet potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Harvest Instructions
& Best Varieties
How to PrepareIdeal TemperatureIdeal HumidityStorage Length
When half of onion tops are bent over it is time to force the rest to dry out. Use a rake to knock down the rest of the onion tops. Allow to dry out for 1 week, then harvest.

Lay onions on a screen in the sun for several days to 1 week to cure.

White Ebenezer
Copra
Southport Red Globe
Cut tops off or use to braid onions.
Store in mesh bags or slatted crates.
32 - 50 degrees Fahrenheit60 - 70%4 - 6 months
black winter radish

Radish – Winter

Harvest Instructions
& Best Varieties
How to PrepareIdeal TemperatureIdeal HumidityStorage Length
Harvest sweet potatoes after the first hard frost has killed the vines.
Dig carefully to avoid damaging skin. Allow to air dry for several hours then gently brush soil from tubers. Skin damages easily.


Cure sweet potatoes for 2 weeks in 85 - 90% humidity to toughen skins, convert some of the starch to sugar, and heal small nicks.
Use small and damaged sweet potatoes up, do not store.

Centennial
Japanese Purple
Wrap sweet potatoes in newspaper or layer in dry sawdust in a box, basket, or clean garbage can.

Keep dry in storage or they will rot quickly.

45 - 60 degrees Fahrenheit80 - 85% 4 - 6 months
rutabaga

Rutabaga

Harvest Instructions
& Best Varieties
How to PrepareIdeal TemperatureIdeal HumidityStorage Length
Harvest late season potatoes for storage after tops have died down and soil is fairly dry.
Store potatoes that are not damaged.
After digging, allow to dry for an hour, then brush off soil and begin curing process.

To cure potatoes, Spread out in dry, dark spot with temps around 60 - 75 degrees Fahrenheit and leave for 1 - 2 weeks. This will toughen the skin and heal small nicks.

Burbank Russet
Katahdin
Kennebec
Red La Soda
Yukon Gold
Place potatoes in shallow layers in slatted boxes or well ventilated containers. 36 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit90%4 - 6 months
Enter Promo Code SelfSufficient for discount!

Salsify (Vegetable Oyster)

Harvest Instructions
& Best Varieties
How to PrepareIdeal TemperatureIdeal HumidityStorage Length
Winter radishes store well, but summer radishes do not. Harvest once temperatures cool down, but before a hard frost.

Black Spanish Round
China Rose
Chinese White
Trim leaves.

Pack in damp sand or sawdust.
32 - 35 degrees Fahrenheit90 - 95%3 - 5 months
turnips

Turnips

Harvest Instructions
& Best Varieties
How to PrepareIdeal TemperatureIdeal HumidityStorage Length
Rutabagas are sweeter after cold sets in, but harvest before a heavy frost.

American Purple Top
Laurentian
Trim leaves off close to root.

Pack in damp sand or sawdust .

You may also dip in wax to retain moisture and keep longer.
32 - 35 degrees 90 - 95%2 - 3 months

Learn How to Harvest & Store Root Crops to Increase Your Self-Reliance

Knowing how to harvest and store root crops is a great skill for self-reliance. Even if you don’t have idea storage conditions you can still save a lot of vegetables into the winter with these methods. Having root crops stashed away for a couple of months will give you more time to preserve them by other means.

Check your stored roots often and use up the ones that are getting wrinkled or have bad spots. Some of these vegetables may be dehydrated, pickled, or canned to preserve them for a much longer period. If it seems that you will lose an entire box of beets, for example, make a batch of pickled beets or use a pressure canner to preserve them. Then use up the rest of your garden goodies before they go bad!

Do you store root crops for winter? Leave a comment!

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

How to Harvest and Store Root Crops by The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
Follow me...

Lisa Lombardo

Freelance Writer at Tohoca, LLC
Lisa writes in-depth articles about gardening and homesteading topics. She grew up on a farm and has continued learning about horticulture, animal husbandry, and home food preservation ever since. She has earned an Associate of Applied Science in Horticulture and a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She is a self proclaimed gardening freak and crazy chicken lady.

In addition to writing for her own websites, Lisa has contributed articles to The Prepper Project and Homestead.org.

The author lives outside of Chicago with her husband, son, 2 dogs, 1 cat, and a variety of poultry.
Follow me...

Latest posts by Lisa Lombardo (see all)

2 Comments

    • Lisa Lombardo

Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.